CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
The first weekend of Philly Live 2022 continued with action taking place on four courts at Jefferson University on both days and three at St. Joe’s Prep on Saturday.
The CoBL staff was on hand all day long checking out a mix of some of the area’s local talent as well as some teams from the Mid-Atlantic and beyond who came to town to show off their stuff in front of dozens upon dozens of college coaches, from Division I through Division III and more.
Here’s a packed notebook featuring quite a few area teams participating in the event on Saturday and Sunday.
Father Judge, Roantree in a good place to start Year 2
Father Judge second-year head coach Chris Roantree finally feels like he’s not playing catchup.
Kyle Jones (above) and Father Judge get a full offseason under Chris Roantree after his June hiring last year. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
After officially being named the Crusaders’ head coach last June, Roantree did his best to bring his team up to speed, but he still felt behind the eight ball during Judge’s 4-9 PCL finish in 2022-23.
Now in his first full offseason with a good chunk of last year’s roster back, Roantree and Judge appear right on track, earning wins over Downingtown West, Bishop Eustace and Plymouth Whitemarsh this weekend at Philly Live I.
“Last year, it was kind of a turnover and getting the job late and all that,” Roantree said. “Now, we know what we want to do and how we want to do it and all that. Our offseason program’s been really good.”
The only key departures from Judge’s 2021-22 squad are Jalen Flowers and Jordan Rhinehart, so unlike last season Roantree has a lot of familiarity with the roster.
Third team All-PCL selection Kyle Jones (2023) is back and played well at Philly Live. Rising junior guard Laquan Byrd was another standout throughout the weekend.
Another pair of 2023s, Ernest Shelton and Chris Brennan, are two more experienced returners along with 2024 forward Anthony Lilly. Guard Kevair Kennedy (2025) entered the starting lineup late last season.
There’s also some excitement about young players like 2026 RJ Smith, who held his own defensively against PW guard and Division I offeree Jaden Colzie on Sunday.
“Most of our guys return, probably six guys in our rotation,” Roantree said. “And the young guys are developing and getting better.”
The results of the time together are showing so far this offseason.
Roantree said his team went 2-0 at Temple’s team camp earlier this month and only has two losses since the spring — tight contests with Imhotep and Archbishop Ryan.
The Crusaders rolled past Downingtown West on Friday and Bishop Eustace on Saturday before holding off the Colonials in one of the games of the weekend on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re just figuring out how we play now that we have a full offseason to do it,” Roantree said. “And it’s been a pretty good offseason so far.”
“We feel good about where we’re at and we’re just going to try and get better.” — Owen McCue
Experienced, confident Collegium Charter aiming for deeper state run
It was only three games into the 2021-22 season that Collegium Charter’s boys realized they had a chance to accomplish quite a lot that season. And it was thanks to a loss, one to Catholic League powerhouse Neumann-Goretti.
After three quarters of that game, played after a 19-day COVID layoff, the Cougars were down just six to the Saints, who’d go on to capture the PCL and PIAA Class 4A state championships with ease. The final score was 54-40, Neumann-Goretti, but to Collegium, it might as well have been reversed.
“That Neumann-Goretti game helped us a lot, it gave us a lot of confidence,” rising senior guard Dinero Washington said Saturday. “They’re one of the top teams in the state, they went on to win everything — so we were feeling really confident after that game, coming off a COVID break and we played really well. We felt we could compete with everybody, definitely win the league and the district.”
And that’s just what they did. Collegium won 24 of its next 25 games, capturing the Bicentennial Athletic League regular-season and postseason championship, taking out some District 1 programs like Phoenixville, West Chester East and Bishop Shanahan during a few non-league matchups scattered throughout.
That all culminated in the program’s first state tournament appearance, thanks to a 62-58 win over Pope John Paul II in the district title game. Trinity, the District 3’s third seed, ended Collegium’s run in the first round, but all that’s done has driven the Cougars to be better this year. Much better.
“We really think we could try to at least challenge for a state championship,” head coach Markel Jones said. “I know it’s easier said than done, but getting in there and seeing how it was last year, I think we’ll be able to make a run at it.”
It certainly helps that the Cougars have a lot back in the fold. Washington, a speedy 5-9 lead guard with a number of small-college programs involved thus far, is a multi-year captain and three-level scorer who sets the tone. He’s got size and experience around him in 6-3 rising junior wing K’Mari Smith, 6-6 senior wing forward Duce Jackson and 6-8 senior post Travon Mack, who were all starters and major pieces of last year’s success.
With Mack currently dealing with a broken foot, that’s allowed others like Jesse Smith — K’Mari’s younger brother — Alyjah Warren and Evan Schnitzius to step up and show that this year’s team will not just be more experienced, they’ll be deeper, too, which they showed in a 60-55 win over Sanford School (Del.) on Saturday, K’Mari Smith scoring 15 and Jackson 12 in the win, with seven entering the box score despite Mack’s absence (broken foot). And with the bar raised significantly, they all know this time of year is crucial towards raising it once again.
“The games that we did lose last year, it was little things,” Washington said, “so we just want to better those little things so they won’t be a problem when we get further in the year […] everybody has to be ready. We’re getting everybody in the gym, everybody’s working, just trying to be at a really high level next year, higher than last year, go undefeated.” — Josh Verlin
Council Rock South getting some run in with a new-look team
When Council Rock South tips off its season in the fall, it will be trotting out an almost entirely new starting lineup. With four starters from last season graduating — including Gavin Holloran (All-SOL Patriot First Team) and Shane Dawson (All-SOL Patriot HM) — rising senior Matt Robinson is the only returning starter for the Golden Hawks, who finished 10-12 (5-11 SOL) a year ago.
With the lack of continuity on the top end of the roster, this offseason is an important one for the CR South, and head coach Andrew Rogers has been emphasizing getting his team on the floor together.
“Our goal is to try to play a lot of games just so they get used to playing with each other,” Rogers said. “[...] We’re getting a little better week by week, which is good. And they’re working hard, so it’s been fun.
So far, the Golden Hawks have played in the William Tennent spring league, the DeSales tournament last week, and Philly Live this weekend, and later in the summer, they will be in the Christopher Dock league. Rogers also mentioned the possibility of playing in more events throughout the summer.
“I think the continuity with the guys has gotten much better from the beginning of the spring,” Rogers said. “Offensively, they’re picking up some things pretty well. It’s getting better. They’re getting to know each other better. Defense has been slowly getting better. I think we’ve improved in a lot of areas a little bit, and that’s been our goal; kind of 1% better every week.”
In Council Rock’s 56-43 loss against William Penn, 6-foot Timmy Rahill led the way with 11 points. Rising senior Justin McCloskey had an impressive showing, finishing with seven points, also facilitating, grabbing rebounds and blocking at least one shot. Robinson, a 6-3 wing/guard that will have the ball in his hands more this year, finished with six points, making a tough layup while also knocking down a 3-pointer.
“We got a lot of guys that are competing for time, which is good,” Rogers said. “We have a lot of guys that have been coming to workouts, a lot of guys that are hungry to play.”
While the loss of the six-man senior class leaves holes in production, it also means the team’s leaders are gone, a position Robinson has stepped into.
During his time with the team last year, Robinson said he learned how to be a leader by watching players like Holloran and Dawson.
“Stepping up into more of a leadership role and being more vocal and helping my teammates along with myself get better,” Robinson said, “that’s probably the biggest change.” — Matthew Ryan
Central Bucks South using offseason to restock
After 18 years with the program, Louie Ditri is finally getting his chance as the head coach of Central Bucks South. The former assistant to Jason Campbell is excited about the new opportunity but realizes the commitment the role demands.
“It's exciting, I like it.” Ditri said. “Exciting. Definitely more on the plate. When you're the head coach, you got to be at every event whereas an assistant, sometimes you can miss one.”
Tyler Meinel (above) is an intriguing big wing in the Suburban One League with his skillset. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
As if a coaching change wasn’t enough, the Titans also graduated seven seniors from the squad that bowed out to Plymouth Whitemarsh in the first round of the District 1 6A playoffs last season. One of these graduating seniors was 6-7 Ursinus signee Michael Farley, who allowed the team to rely more upon their post play. With a relatively clean slate, Ditri wants to use this offseason to put his imprint on the team’s style of play.
“With the players we have coming up, all five guys on the court can handle the ball, so it's get it and go.” Ditri said. “We’re probably going to be shooting more threes. I would still like to get some post play, but it's probably going to be a lot less than last year.”
One of the few returning varsity players is 2023 Tyler Meinel, who flourished in a secondary role behind Farley last season. But this year, Meinel will be the focus of opposing defenses and stepping into a bigger leadership role on the team. The 6-6 rising senior says he’s putting an emphasis on his on-court communication, describing himself as the “eyes on the court” for the Titans.
“I just need to fill Mike Farley's shoes,” Meinel said. “And I'm just trying to make this team as good as they can be.”
But with potentially 10 new players coming up from JV, the adjustment could be rough. That’s why Ditri wants to build chemistry within the team, on and off the court. The team has been trying to get as many games as possible under their belt, playing in the Christopher Dock League this spring and the Kennett League this summer.
“You want to get your group, chemistry-wise, ready for the season.” Ditri said. “Because, if you lose a few games early in the season, it's going to be hard. You want to be ready from game one and not halfway into the season.”
Although the team dropped contests to Bonner-Prendie (65-45) and Cherokee (57-49) on Sunday, the Titans remain optimistic for their first year of the Ditri era thanks to a revamped offensive system and Meinel’s return. — Liam O’Murchu
Paul Robeson 2023 Zaire McLaine throws up a floater during play on Sunday, June 19. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
— Paul Robeson will try to duplicate the success of last season when the program won its first-ever state playoff game in the PIAA Class 2A tournament. Leading scorer Robert Keys (24.6 ppg) leaves a big hole to fill but the backcourt of 2023 Eiljah Bryant and 2024 Tysheem Johnson was explosive in Sunday’s games. 2023 wing Zaire McLaine, the team’s fourth leading scorer a season ago, should also bring some toughness to the group.
— West Chester Rustin finished .500 in 2021-22, but won four of its last five games to close out the season. The Golden Knights brought a veteran group to Philly Live with 2023s Matt Nochumson (11 points), Tyler Giunta (11), Ian Schlesinger (10) and Sam Sproull (4) doing most of the offensive damage in a loss to Cherokee to start their day. Rising sophomore forward Chaz Davis (6-5) could be an X-factor closer to the season, depending on how quickly he can develop into a varsity contributor.
— After going 6-16 last season, Sankofa returns many key players that now have some more experience under their belt. The Warriors’ two double-digit scorers from last year, according to MaxPreps, Zaki Alston (16.6 points per game) and Stanley Parker (11.2), will be seniors this season, and rising sophomore Nasir Williams, who averaged 6.1 ppg a season ago, looked terrific in Sankofa’s win over West Chester Rustin on Sunday, scoring 17 points to tie Alston for the game-high. Asim Hardy is another soon-to-be sophomore that will be a big piece for the Warriors next year.
“It’s huge for us because we suffered from injuries, we had a lot of different issues, the young guys got to play a lot of reps,” head coach Isaiah Thomas said about his team’s returning experience. “So even though we are playing freshmen and sophomores again this year, they’ve played a lot of varsity basketball.”
Tag(s): Home High School Bicentennial League Collegium Charter Catholic League Father Judge Public League Public League A Sankofa Public League B Robeson Suburban One SOL Colonial Central Bucks South SOL Patriot Council Rock S.